Jeffrey DiNunzio is a production coordinator at National Geographic magazine, and an avowed hockey addict. He recently ventured northward to Halifax to revel in the best that international ice hockey has to offer, and returned with a report on this sustainable city.
If you're an avid hockey fan, you already know that 2008 marks the centennial of the official “governing body of international ice hockey and inline hockey.” But for the sake the novice, here's a quick tutorial: Each year the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) holds the World Hockey Championship tournament in a different host country. Recognizing Canada’s distinguished honor as the origin of the sport, the IIHF scheduled this year’s tourney in Canada for the first time. Held between May 2 and May 14 this year, the games were split between Quebec City and Halifax. And as one of approximately three hockey fans in the United States, I entered the Atlantic time zone to scope out Halifax.
It’s a long drive from Pennsylvania to Halifax—perfect for that 1,070-mile power nap you need. Anyone who’s ever complained about overcrowding has likely never driven the 1 North or 2, 104, or 102 West from the U.S.-Canada border crossing at St. Stephen, New Brunswick to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Only howling, filthy, speeding 18-wheelers rouse the sleepy towns that freckle eastern Canada’s barren hills. As for signs of life, the 102 can be a sorry stretch of asphalt. But patience yields rewards. The freeway expires in the distinctly Canadian city—a town that’s absorbed the best traits of Europe and America (except rail transit) while creating its own unique character.
Halifax’s roughly 373,000 residents are a diverse bunch, covered by a condensed blanket of urbanity stitched together by almost 90 efficient bus routes. Like most cities, the hub of Halifax’s tourism is by the water, and several buses regurgitate passengers at the waterfront downtown, which is remarkably pedestrian friendly. The Halifax Citadel National Historic Site (a former British naval station), the Metro Centre arena where the tournament was played, and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
are all minutes apart by foot.
Augmenting Halifax's particularly pedestrian nature is the fact that
it has one of the smallest ecological footprints in North America. It was recently ranked as one of the most sustainable cities in Canada—second only to Ottawa. Some of the town’s smaller eco-touches are evident as you stroll around town,
like the way they've married almost every public trash can with
composting containers. They're also using biofuels in public vehicles,
LED lights in road signs and office buildings, and capturing methane from city landfills.
Local restaurants are encouraged to buy produce from local vendors, residents are urged to use bikes as vehicles, and the city is trying to adapt to more wind-generated power.
But perhaps the most convivial aspect of Halifax is also its most festive fact: It boasts the most pubs per capita of any city in North America. At least that’s what those goofy reenactors at the famed Alexander Keith’s Brewery on Lower Water Street assured me. After taking the hour-long tour of the historic brewery (Keith began brewing his IPA in 1820), and swallowing multiple pints of its various brews, the countless watering holes of Halifax are easy steps away. Duck into, say, Pogue Fado, and you’ll be guaranteed a good conversation with the locals—your depth of hockey acumen might earn you a free round. And don’t be surprised to see any Canucks tossing back the Colorado Kool-Aid…err, Coors Light; it’s much heavier in the frosty north. But better to imbibe with the local brews, whether Keith’s or Garrison’s or Propeller.
Photo: Above, The Dawn Over Halifax by FloydSlip; Below, recycling cans by Jeffrey DiNunzio